Good manners and propriety give us a basis for social intelligence. Who does not get tired of the person whose mouth is filled with rudeness, insult and inappropriate comments?
We are certain to judge the one who does not know how to act. So, if we behave certain ways, it might suggest to others that we have good character.
I think we do need to learn to mind our manners, so that we do not become offensive and rude to each other. But manners are not enough to ensure that we have the right heart in all our relationships. Manners do not equal respect.
Good manners are sometimes a façade behind which an evil heart lurks. People can smile, speak politely and stab you in the back the moment you turn away. Being nice is not the same as being truthful. Real communication requires that we shed our pretence and carefully speak the truth in love.
There may be ‘good church manners’ that have more to do with grandma’s idea of appropriate social behaviour than they do with the gospel. How often do we not see Jesus in the gospels messing with others sense of propriety?
Sometimes people that remain silent assume they are being polite. If I do not say anything, they will not know what I really think at this moment. Jesus is in a situation where he is being carefully watched. The prominence of the homeowner put people on best behaviour. Because he is a strong leader and influential Pharisee, we best sit up straight. Smiles and nods are the order of the day.
There are people who get that same feeling when they enter a church they perceive to be unfriendly. “I feel as if all eyes are on me and I wish I could hide.”
Jesus had a knack for saying and doing things that were off-putting to people who had airs of superiority. He looks around the room for the most uncomfortable person. There is another man who was abnormally swollen. The physical condition suggested that he was probably in constant pain and not functioning normally.
Jesus has a way of finding the weakest and adding strength. He healed the man who suffered greatly. And then he talks about the elephant in the room. Is it good manners to heal someone on the Sabbath? If you have a child or an animal in crisis on the Sabbath day, do you wait until the next day before you come to their rescue? Are your Sabbath rules greater than your basic compassion for one who is in need?
Jesus heals the man. In so doing, he demonstrates God’s compassion to all who suffer. He shows that God’s laws are higher than human interpretation and systematic manners.